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There was a rainbow over the Euroborg before kick-off but Portugal's hopes of finding a pot of gold here in the Netherlands ended despite this comfortable victory against Israel in their final Group A game. Belgium's 2-2 draw with the Netherlands some 60 kilometres away in Heerenveen consigned them to third place in the section, a point behind Jean-François De Sart's Belgians.
Mood turns sour
Leading 4-0 through goals from Manuel Fernandes, Ricardo Vaz Té, Miguel Veloso and Nani, everything looked rosy for Portugal until the 70th minute when news filtered through that Belgium had equalised against the Dutch. With the inspirational Nani departing on a stretcher in the same minute, suddenly the mood turned sour for José Couceiro's side. While Portugal must now wait for tomorrow's Group B deciders to find out if third spot will earn them a play-off for a berth at the 2008 Olympic Games, Israel's first U21 finals closed with this third successive defeat.
Flash of quality
Portugal had 70 per cent of possession during the opening quarter-hour yet it was Israel who had the first chance of note on 17 minutes. Idan Srur swung in a free-kick from the right but the unmarked Lior Rafaelov failed to make contact and Paulo Ribeiro saved with his feet. Almost immediately at the other end, we saw the first flash of quality from one of Portugal's highly-rated attackers as João Moutinho skipped past Eliran Danin and centred to Vaz Té but the forward, appearing for the first time in the Netherlands, headed over.
Nani to the fore
That sparked a succession of opportunities with Nani at the heart of everything. The new Manchester United FC winger had one shot deflected over, then drove another at Tom Al Madon from Hugo Almeida's knock-down. After the besieged goalkeeper had turned behind Manuel da Costa's low free-kick, Nani was at it again, hitting the top of the net with an overhead kick. A goal seemed inevitable and when it came on 37 minutes, Nani was involved again, Manuel Fernandes playing a one-two with him before driving a fierce shot in off the underside of the crossbar. Al Madon then kept out a Nani header but on the stroke of half-time, it was 2-0 as Vaz Té nodded in João Pereira's pinpoint cross.
The second half brought no respite for Israel and by the 50th minute, Portugal were out of sight. First Miguel Veloso's free-kick from out on the right evaded everyone, Al Madon included, on its way inside the far post. Sixty seconds later Nani flashed the ball past the goalkeeper from 20 metres. A real pity then that the talented 20-year-old's evening ended prematurely after a heavy tackle from Israel substitute Dani Bondarv. Israel prevented any further damage as Al Madon denied Moutinho and Danin headed off the line from Vaz Té, but Guy Levy's men missed out on the consolation of a first goal in the competition when Paulo Ribeiro saved Rami Duani's late close-range effort. While Portugal wait to see if there will indeed be an Olympic play-off on 21 June, for captain Hugo Almeida his involvement in the Netherlands is over having picked up another booking here.
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